Bipolar Disorder is a complex mental health illness – one that causes significant distress to its sufferers. The cause of Bipolar Disorder isn’t exactly known.

It is believed however that a combination of factors or a lone factor can trigger the condition developing. Trauma, stress, chemical imbalance and genetics are among many of the speculated causes.

In many cases, it is unclear as to what exactly causes the condition to appear. In this article, we explore the causes further.

The causes of Bipolar Disorder are not entirely known

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder (once known as Manic Depression) is a serious mental health condition characterised by intense mood swings. Someone with Bipolar Disorder will experience both highs – known as mania, and lows – known as depression. These periods will often last for weeks, and can cause significant distress. Sometimes, Bipolar Disorder can start as Depression, before exacerbating. The depressive periods of Bipolar feature long-term periods of low moods. During the manic phase, an individual will feel happy, energetic and ambitious – and often act recklessly, or exhibit signs of psychosis. There are different sub-types of Bipolar Disorder, based around the differing characteristics of each. Bipolar Disorder is normally a chronic condition. However, with treatment, the symptoms can be controlled far more, which should result in an improvement in quality of life.

What are some potential causes of Bipolar Disorder?

Here are some of the possible factors that appear to potentially act as either a trigger or a risk factor for Bipolar Disorder:

  • Genetics: It appears that Bipolar Disorder runs in families. One study found that genetics may account for up to 80% of the risk of developing the condition [1]. Inheriting Bipolar Disorder appears to be possible, or at the least this acts as a risk factor.
  • Chemical Imbalance: Most people have heard the term chemical imbalance in terms of explaining a range of mental health conditions. Imbalances in key neurotransmitters in the brain like Serotonin, dopamine or norepinephrine appear to be capable of causing a mental health condition to develop. However, the effect of chemical imbalances isn’t fully understood.
  • Childhood Events: A traumatic event or poor upbringing in childhood can contribute towards Bipolar Disorder developing. Some form of abuse or the death of a parent at an early age may contribute to Bipolar Disorder developing. Childhood events help shape the personality of an individual.
  • Abuse: Physical, sexual or emotional abuse can lead to Bipolar Disorder developing, with trauma capable of affecting an individual in many ways.
  • Major Life Event: Major life events, such as a relationship breakdown, divorce, losing a job or money worries can lead to the onset of symptoms associated with Bipolar Disorder.
  • Antidepressants: When someone with Bipolar Disorder has been misdiagnosed with Depression, their antidepressant medication can actually inadvertently cause an episode of either Mania or Hypomania [2].
  • Other Mental Health Conditions: Bipolar Disorder can arise as a result of a similar condition, like Depression, worsening. Bipolar Disorder often runs comorbidly with other conditions like Eating Disorders or Personality Disorders.
  • Loneliness: Loneliness is difficult to cope with, and can trigger a plethora of mental health conditions.
  • Stress: A period of intense stress can lead to Bipolar Disorder developing, especially if an individual has difficulty sleeping – with insomnia another possible cause of symptoms.


It is possible that a combination of the some of the above factors contribute to Bipolar Disorder. Some of these areas, like Genetics, appear to be risk factors. Then there are other cases where an individual may develop Bipolar disorder without a clear cause.

As seen in this article, there are many possible causes of Bipolar disorder – with many people vulnerable to seeing the condition arise.

See Also

  1. Bipolar Disorder: Everything You Need To Know
  2. What Are The Different Types of Bipolar Disorder?
  3. What Are The Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
  4. What Are The Causes of Bipolar Disorder?
  5. How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?
  6. How Can Bipolar Disorder be Treated?
  7. What is the Prognosis for Bipolar Disorder?
  8. 10 Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder

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[1] Kerner, B. (2014). Genetics of Bipolar Disorder. The Application of Clinical Genetics. 7: p33-42. DOI:

[2] Goldberg, J. F., & Truman, C. J. (2003). Antidepressant-induced mania: an overview of current controversies. Bipolar Disorders. 5 (6): p407-420. DOI: